Driving to Corfu

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For most, the journey really starts in France - either Calais (Eurotunnel / Ferry) or Dunkirk (Ferry).  It is also possible to get an overnight ferry down from the north of England to Zeebruge, although this can be affected by bad weather in the North Sea (as can the Dover ferries of course!) at the time of year when we travel. There are additional options if you travel from the south west of England, but these are not covered here as we have not used these services.   After a four hour delay for bad weather in the first year we drove, we now use only EuroTunnel.

There are three primary routes thereafter that we have used - France / Switzerland / Italy, France / Belgium / Germany / Austria / Italy and France / Italy

Although it is feasible to do most of the journey overland (by travelling down through Slovenia, Croatia, etc., -- see below for more thoughts on this), most people who drive will take the ferry from one of the main Italian ports - Venice, Ancona, Bari or Brindisi. The ferry companies have changed their routes several times recently so, particularly outside of the July / August period, the ferries no longer stop at Corfu and you therefore need to use Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland (which has plentiful connections to Corfu).  Which Italian port you use will often depend on how the sailing and arrival times "work" for you. You need to bear in mind that advertised arrival times are actually the time that the ferry should reach the outer walls of the port and are not the docking time.   It can also take several hours to get off the ferry and clear the dockyard after docking (particularly at busy times in the summer), so you need to take this in to account when planning your onward journey.

We used Venice for a number of years until we were held outside the Grand Canal for eleven hours in November 2011 due to fog (two weeks later there was a thirty six hour delay) - we subsequently used Ancona which only adds around 170Km to our road journey but does not suffer the same sort of delays, and the sailing time is also quite a bit shorter although in 2021 one of the shipping companies started using smaller / slower ferries and the journey times have been extended by 3-4 hours (from 16 to 20 hours).  The crossing from Bari is normally around 9-10 hours.

Since we last used the Venice route, the port has changed such that the ferries no longer have to use the Grand Canal and now dock on the mainland, which in theory makes the driving process easier as it will no longer require a drive across the Causeway from the mainland in to Venice.   However, in our view the shorter journey time on the Igoumenitsa / Ancona route still makes Ancona our favoured port. 

It is also possible to drive down through Italy to pick up a ferry in Bari or Brindisi - these ferry routes are much shorter (and cheaper).  We used Bari for the first time in October 2021 as an experiment travelling from Igoumenitsa (more details can be found on the "Drive to England" page_, and again in January 2022 (travelling to Igoumenitsa).

The impact of the UK leaving the European Union when travelling in to France from the UK appears to have had minimal impact other than limits on Duty Free and also possible import taxes on items you carry.  Neither of these were an issue to us when we travelled in January 2022.   Once in France there were no changes to regulations, although the entry in to / departure from Switzerland (if using that route) has not, as far as we are aware, been documented yet.

Security checks at the Italian ports have increased substantially over the last few years - cars can be directed to a "security" area when entering the dockyard (after check-in) and you are asked to take luggage from the car in to a building for security screening (much like airport screening). We pack most things in a number of clear plastic boxes and to date we have only had to remove suitcases / wheelies from the car for security checks.  It is perhaps advisable though to ensure that as much as possible is packed in to boxes / cases to make the transfer to the security building as straightforward as possible as you get no assistance unloading / reloading the car nor in taking the cases / boxes to the scanning machines (there are no trollies either!) based on our experiences in Ancona.

 

Our "Swiss" route to Corfu is normally:

In terms of mileage, Day 1 is around 500Km while days 2 and 3 are around 750Km and 600Km respectively, and day 4 around 250Km.  In March 2017 (the last time we used this route) the tolls were EUR13.40 (in France) and EUR34.60 (Italy) with EUR37 for the Swiss Vignette (which is valid for the whole calendar year).

 

Our "Germany" route to Corfu is:

In July 2020 (we were delayed because of Covid restrictions), tolls were EUR14.60 (Austria) and EUR40.50 (Italy) with EUR9.40 for the Austrian vignette (valid for ten days). 

 

Our "France / Italy" route to Corfu in 2022: 

Certain elements of this drive were the result of the Covid testing rules in various countries.  In January 2022, tolls were EUR95 (France) and EUR91 (Italy), while the cost of the Frejus Tunnel was EUR48.

 

The Austrian and Swiss Vignettes can be bought at most service stations before the borders, or, for the Swiss Vignette, actually at the border (although there can occasionally be a queue for this).  We normally buy ours in advance from a German website as this allows us to get them stuck on to the car windscreen before we depart.  Austria has now introduced an e-vignette option which means there is no paper to stick to the windscreen, but it must be bought around 18 days in advance of your planned journey (to meet Austrian consumer related legislation). Switzerland plan to introduce a similar e-vignette option in 2023.

Other Routes

The main routes we use have been indicated above, but there are others!.    Prior to country borders being closed as part of the Covid pandemic during 2020, we did look at a number of other options.

These involve driving all the way to Greece via different land routes rather than using a ferry from Italy.  After travelling through Germany and Austria, there are several possible routes from Austria down to mainland Greece, and the choice largely depends on your thoughts in respect of leaving the EU for part of the drive.  If you prefer to stay within the EU and thus (in normal circumstances) avoid, or minimise, stops/ searches / passport display at borders, then it is necessary to leave Austria near Vienna / Wien and travel through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria in to mainland Greece near Thessaloniki.   Shorter routes which take you out of the EU include those that take you down through Serbia, Kosova and Northern Macedonia or through even more countries and down through Albania. The route from Thessaloniki to Igoumenitsa is along a motorway with a couple of tolls. 

Whichever route you take, it is worth checking on vignette requirements as, for some countries, they must be purchased in advance (viz. they cannot be bought at the border) - unlike Switzerland, several countries only have e-vignettes.